I was prompted to write about this--"the fourth trimester," the three months following the birth of a full-term infant--for several reasons. First, I've been devoting a lot of time over the last two years to learning about attachment, the process by which we come to be connected to our caregivers early in our lives, and through which we come to underatand what it means to be a person, and especially, a person in relationship. And that learning begins in the fourth trimester. By twelve months, a baby has arrived at a deep understanding of how to be in relationship, of what it means to care and be cared for.
As this is happening for us as babies, for us as mothers? We are navigating our own changes, ranging from postpartum physical recovery to neurological and psychological changes that typically allow us to be more attuned to the needs of their babies--and often less attuned to our own needs. Partners too, when they are present, are busy coming to terms with changing relationships in the household, with the enormity of their new roles, and what it means to them.
I'm moved by the efforts of babies to reach out and engage the people who care for them, just as I'm moved by the efforts of those same caregivers--mothers, fathers, grandparents, and many many others--to rise to the challenge of care as best they can, all the while confronting the physical challenges of care and the profound feelings about being in relationship that typically surface at this moment.
And then I saw an article in the New York Times that touches on this moment. It's flawed in a variety of ways--most obviously to my eyes, in its assumption of economic privilege--but it's still an important recognition of the vulnerability of this moment in the lives of families. It mentions some great new books, like The Fourth Trimester, and urges women to attend to their own well-being in a variety of ways--getting help day-by-day, getting sleep, supporting physical recuperation, supporting breastfeeding.
Please know that if you're seeking support at this moment, there are many local resources available to you, everything from pelvic floor therapists like those mentioned in this article, to lactation specialists and nursng mother's groups, to free support groups for women experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety, and much much more. And there are therapists like me who are ready to help you make sense of what's happening for you.